Friday, March 31, 2006

"How I Write" Segment

If you happen to listen to the newest AFF podcast interview with writer/director Jessica Bendinger, she noted that she did a "How I Write" article on John August's website. Without all of the searching, here it is, full of great tips on creating characters, outlines, drafts and more.

Jessica's directing debut, Stick It, opens wide on April 21st.

AFF Podcast #4: Jessica Bendinger

In episode #4 of the Austin Film Festival Podcast, we interview Jessica Bendinger (Bring it On, Sex and the City, Stick It) about the creation of her first film, her experiences as a script doctor, and her eventual return to the spec script. Aspiring screenwriters will definitely want to tune in to this episode.

Listening to our internet radio show does not require an iPod. Any computer or MP3-compatible music player will do. To subscribe in iTunes, follow this link (which will open the iTunes program to the AFF Podcast page) and click the "subscribe" button.

Listen to episode 4 of the AFF Podcast now!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

AFF Photo of the Week: Townsend and Stillman

Taken at the 1996 Austin Film Festival, this is the kind of encounter you only find at a film festival - Robert Townsend and Whit Stillman. Both writer/directors were panelists that year, plus Townsend was on hand for an anniversary screening of his indie classic Hollywood Shuffle. Townsend also wrote and directed The Five Heartbeats and Meteor Man.

Whit Stillman wrote and directed the "yuppie trilogy" - Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco. Following the release of Criterion's edition of Metropolitan earlier this year, the Onion A/V Club published a great interview with the reclusive Stillman where he discussed where he's been and what he's doing next (his last film was The Last Days of Disco in 1998).

(photo credit: Jack Plunkett/Austin Film Festival)

GLAAD Media Award Winners

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) announced the winners of their 17th Annual Media Awards. Among the nominated films were AFF screened films Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Transamerica, as well as Transgeneration ('05 AFF Member Screening).

For a complete list of winners and nominees, visit GLAAD's site.

Billy Mernit on conventionality and salability

From "Living the Romantic Comedy":

When a reader (professional reader, producer, actor, director, civilian, et al) reads the first page of a screenplay, what is the last thing this reader wants to see?

Something they've read before.

As a reader and a writer, nothing deadens my soul, puts my hope and imagination to sleep faster, than the sense that I'm being told One of Those Stories in the Same Old Way. Now it's true that what the studio is looking for is a project that's "commercial," which by common wisdom is a story deemed to be a familiar, acessible, sellable. But in truth, the studio ideal is a story that's the same, only different.

Read the full article entitled "Mysteries of the Unrepeatable" now.

Comet the wonder horse coming to DVD.

Perhaps you are not familiar with the short lived 1993 TV series The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. You should be. The only scifi western comedy ever to air on American television (though I hear there is some great Khazakstani stuff I should check out), Brisco starred everyone's favorite B movie star Bruce Campbell as Brisco County, son of a murdered famous lawman in search of his father's killer. Which all sounds fairly common until you take slapstick comedy, mysterious orbs, and the occasional time travel episode into account. But of course Fox killed it after one year. And now the long wait is over and the entire one season run of the show is being released on DVD this July. Bruce Campbell fans of the world rejoice!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

John August Interview

Kevin Arbouet at the film blog Tenspeed and Brownshoe recently asked screenwriter John August 10 questions about the practice of screenwriting. August posted the complete interview on his website.

John August will be a panelist at this year's Austin Film Festival and Conference. He is the writer behind such films as Big Fish, Charlie's Angels, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and many more.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

AFF Screenplay Competition

Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition Reminder

Early Deadline- May 15th
Late Deadline: June 1st

Read all the rules and frequently asked questions about our screenplay competition.

The Austin Film Festival supports many other organizations with the same mission. Please read all of the upcoming Slamdance events:


Use a printout of this e-mail to receive a $20 discount off Slamdance's 99K Feature Project, Screenwriters Lab, and the 2006 Screenplay Competition.

For more information visit

The 99k Feature Project is open to all aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters that want insight into the world of independent filmmaking; we'll answer the question, "how do films get made outside the studio system?"
Location: The Village (1125 N. McCadden Place, Los Angeles CA 90038)
Dates: April 22nd & 23rd
Price: $199

Monday, March 27, 2006

AFF Filmmaker Update: Will Dotter

In 2004, the first year of our documentary competition, the Austin Film Festival hosted the world premiere of filmmaker Will Dotter’s feature doc, Just a Little Bit Crazy. The film told the story of the National Rattlesnake Sacking Championship in Taylor, Texas (which is actually about 30 minutes outside of Austin). The film features profiles on the top contenders in the sport of rattlesnake sacking. Film Program Director Kelly Williams catches up with Dotter to talk about the film's festival success and distribution.

Read the interview with Will Dotter now.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Durwood's Video Pick of the Week

Durwood Wilkes is a professional bingo caller from Henshitt, Texas currently making his home base in Chicago. He recently celebrated his 25th year of criss-crossing the country spreading the gospel of bingory. The video pick of the week is taken from The Weekly Hopper, a newsletter for fans of Honky Tonk Bingo, a Sunday night tradition at the Pontiac Cafe' in Chicago. To subscribe to the Hopper, drop him a line at

This week's pick:

Strait Jacket, 1962 Dir. William Castle
All right,so Joan Crawford plays a loonie just released from the
loonie bin after twenty years for choppin' up her husband and his
mistress- in front of her daughter no less. Now Joan Crawford playing
a psycho is about as much of a stretch as me playing a one-eyed bingo
caller from Henshitt, TX, but damned if those eyebrows of hers don't
just bring the crazy by the bushel. I'm not gonna sit here and tell
you it's a good movie or even worth watching, but if you have it on
during your glaucoma treatment and say, you're writing a weekly
column, it's not half bad. I won't go into to the daughter's dark
secret, but we'll just say it was made two years after Psycho and it
shows. Lots of good cheezy music, kooky superimpositions, and
Crawford had one of the best maniacal screams in the business. We'll
also call this the unofficial beginning to the Character Actor Series.
George Kennedy plays the poor dumb farmhand who still knows a little
too much. The scene where Crawford freaks out as he attempts to
butcher a chicken is pretty priceless. Strait Jacket is all right I
reckon, I'd take SamFuller's Shock Corridor over it any day. Perhaps
this is a movie you can put on mute at your next party and impress
your hipster friends with your knowledge of campy axe murderer flicks.
Hipsters sometimes go in for shit like that.

AFF Photo of the Week: Bendinger & Black

Two recently confirmed 2006 AFF panelists, Jessica Bendinger and Shane Black, are actually returning to the conference this year. This photo was taken when they both attended the festival in 2001. The two screenwriters recently made the leap to directing their own scripts, Bendinger with next month's Stick It and Black with last year's Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (which screened during AFF '05).

Shane Black will be receiving the Distinguished Screenwriter Award at this year's festival for his work writing such classic action films as Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tales from the Public Domain

The Duke University Center for the Study of Public Domain recently created a comic book to help filmmakers better understand intellectual property in film. It is particularly helpful for documentary filmmakers and will make you think twice about using that footage where an image from The Simpsons pops up the background (that will likely cost you around $10,000). Find out what you're covered for using and what you are not.

Harold Ramis on AFF

"Austin's so cool it makes Houston look like Dallas. I don't even know what that means but I had an amazingly good time at the Austin Film Festival."

- Harold Ramis
2005 Distinguished Screenwriter Award recipient

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

UNKNOWN WHITE MALE in Austin Friday!

One of the '05 audience faves, UNKNOWN WHITE MALE makes its way to the Regal Arbor Theater this Friday. The film tells the story of a man who wakes up on the subway in Coney Island with no memory of who he is. The kicker is that it's a documentary, beautifully shot by the amnesiac's friend. Here's the official synopsis from the website and below that a link to the trailer.

Sometime between 8pm on July 1st and 7am on July 3rd, 2003, Doug Bruce lost himself. That morning, riding alone on a New York subway headed towards Coney Island, he could not remember his name, where he worked, who his friends were, how much money he had in his bank account. He was without his identity.

UNKNOWN WHITE MALE is the true story of how Bruce, a successful former stockbroker, struggles to learn who he was and who he will become. The documentary, produced, directed and edited by Bruce’s longtime friend, Rupert Murray, chronicles this profound journey.

Two MRIs, two CAT scans, 26 blood tests and an army of psychiatrists cannot properly diagnose what turns out to be the rarest and most startling form of memory loss: retrograde amnesia. Was Bruce the victim of a robbery resulting in a slight head injury or the effects of a small cyst on his pituitary gland? Or perhaps is Bruce subconsciously reacting to the death of his mother a few years before? It is a testament to Murray’s smooth but honest narrative that the film asks all the right questions even if many of the answers remain elusive.

Murray empathetically walks us through Bruce’s quest. He assembles dozens of childhood photos, decades of home videos, extensive interviews with family members, friends, ex-girlfriends, psychiatrists, neurologists, and philosophers—and the touching participation of Bruce himself.

We watch how he reconstructs a life for himself by retaining what he admires about his former self while casting off what—and whom—he dislikes. It is at once a nightmare and a dream come true: a chance at rebirth.

We watch Bruce, now 35, play catch up with popular culture and current events, experience the serenity of a snowfall and the bombast of fireworks. And we watch him reconstruct relationships with family members he does not recognize and fall in love with a woman who knows only the post-accident version of her lover. Paraphrasing John Locke, one of the film’s interviewees observes that Bruce is certainly the same man but questionably the same person.

Fictional narrative film has long been fascinated by stories of memory loss -- from Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND through to more recent releases such as MEMENTO, MULHOLLAND DRIVE and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. Here is a story almost too real for fiction, told with a striking visual style and tremendous heart.

Click here for the trailer

Deborah Nadoolman Landis Lecture

Costume Designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis will deliver the 2006 William Randolph Hearst Fellow lecture at The University of Texas at Austin this Wednesday, March 22nd. Landis has had a long career in costume design for film, television and theater, working with such directors as Steven Spielberg, Louis Malle, Costa-Gavras, and most notably, her husband John Landis (who attended AFF in 1998 for an anniversary screening of National Lampoon's Animal House). She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design in 1988 for the film Coming to America.

Here is the official info on the event...

"Hidden in Plain Sight: Costume Design in Film and Television"

EVENT: Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Academy Award-nominated costume designer and president of the Costume Designers Guild, will deliver the 2006 William Randolph Hearst Fellow lecture at The University of Texas at Austin.

This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to Wade Lee at or 512-232-7809.

WHEN: 5:30-8 p.m., Wednesday, March 22.

WHERE: The Charles Nelson Prothro Theater in the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin, at the corner of 21st Street and Guadalupe. Maps of campus are available online.

BACKGROUND: Landis, who created the iconic costume for Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the costumes for the groundbreaking music video, Michael Jackson'’s Thriller,” has worked on many notable films, including Animal House, “An American Werewolf in London, Coming to America, “Crackers, Mad City, “Three Amigos and Trading Places.

The author of “Screencraft: Costume Design, Landis also wrote the first doctoral dissertation in the field of film costume design. She earned her master's degree in costume design from UCLA and her doctor'’s degree in the history of design from the Royal College of Arts in London.

The William Randolph Hearst Fellow Award honors individuals whose distinguished careers in communication make them outstanding role models for students. The Hearst Fellow Award is one component of the college's William Randolph Hearst Visiting Professionals program, which was endowed by the William Randolph Foundation in 1990. Other components include the Professional in Residence program, which provides 30-day fellowships to visiting professionals, and the Lecturers program, which host visitors to the college for one to three days. Former Hearst Fellows recognized by the College of Communication include Liz Carpenter, Walter Cronkite, Helen Gurley Brown, Dan Rather and Robert Rodriguez.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Austin Film Festival Podcast #3

The newest episode of the AFF Podcast is now live! We decided on the very first episode to tag our podcast as "explicit" and here's the reason why. Two excellent excerpts from recent Austin Film Festival panels with Harold Ramis, Steve Faber, and Bob Fisher showcase the bluer side of making movies.

Plus: another round of the Starmeter game and info on our new blog. John even explains the word "blog" for the uninitiated. Visit us at or e-mail with your comments.

Download AFF Podcast Episode 3.

Gone and Forgotten Site

If you happened to listen to latest episode of This American Life, you probably caught Ira Glass' interview with the guy who runs the website Gone and Forgotten - a site devoted to lost and better left unearthed comics. On the show, they discussed some of comic's worst superheroes, many of which you can find on the site. One of the most intriguing comics featured has to be an issue of Marvel Team-up were Spider-Man "teams-up" with the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. Sure it may seem like a good idea to see John Belushi and Bill Murray in comic form, but it doesn't really work out. See for yourself.

Friday, March 17, 2006


Our friends at the Austin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival are hosting an encore screening of the first gay slasher film, HellBent, next Thursday here in Austin. When the film screened at their 2005 festival the line stretched around the block. The film was written and directed by Paul Etheredge-Ouzts and produced by Steven Wolfe (who both co-produced the 2005 AFF film The Civilization of Maxwell Bright).

Here's the official word on the screening from aGLIFF...

HellBent Returns for a Springtime Scare

First Gay Slasher Film Presented by aGLIFF & The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

When: Thursday, March 23, 2006 (7:00 PM)

Where: Alamo Drafthouse Downtown (409 Colorado St.)

Admission: $7 General / $5.50 Students, Seniors, and aGLIFF members

On Thursday, March 23, 2006 at 7:00 PM, The Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) is hosting an encore presentation of HellBent, the world’s first gay slasher film, in conjunction with The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Downtown. HellBent is the terrifying, original feature that played to sell-out crowds at aGLIFF’s 2005 Festival, from writer/director Paul Etheredge-Ouzts and Joseph Wolf, the co-creators of such horror classics as Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Taking place at the famed West Hollywood Halloween Carnival, there is a serial killer on the loose. A group of four gay friends fight for their lives to make it through a night where flamboyant costumes, beautiful people, drugs, music, dancing and sex are everywhere. A wild, relentless ride that combines winning and appealing characters, unexpected surprises, and shocking scares, HellBent is a refreshing new classic for the horror genre.

"One of the most entertaining & ferociously original slashers to come along

in quite some time."

"...welcome to the first all-gay indie slasher flick--and what an entertainingly

blood-soaked one it is." -E! Online

Total Running Time: 85 minutes. Admission is $7.00 General and $5.50 for students, seniors, and aGLIFF members. For more information, please visit

AFF Photo of the Week: David Chase

The Sopranos is finally back for a new season on HBO, and creator David Chase (seen here talking to festival goers) attended the festival in 2000 between the second and third seasons of the show. Chase was on hand to accept the Outstanding Television Writer Award that year for his work on The Sopranos as well as The Rockford Files, Northern Exposure, and the original Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Other past recipients of the AFF Outstanding Television Writer Award include Garry Shandling, Tom Fontana, Gary David Goldberg, Darren Star, and Mike Judge.

John Kricfalusi talks cartoon story structure


Thus writes John "Ren and Stimpy" Kricfalusi, whose "All Kinds of Stuff" blog mostly covers matters cartoon-related but ranges all over the place. In a recent entry he talks about creating tight stories for cartoons. It's a great lesson on story structure in general, so all you budding screenwriters out there should check it out.

You know who is a great stickler for story structure? Tex Avery. People think of him as being wild and out of control, but he is completely in control of his material.

Read John K's article on cartoon story structure now.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

DIY Steadicam for under 40 dollars!

Many of you responded to the DIY bluescreen, so I thought I'd pass along this budget steadicam. Can't vouch for it performance-wise, but I do love the spirit of these indie projects. Build at your own risk!


Improved Steadicam for under 40 dollars! Also boom mic attachment!

Did you ever want a steadicam that perhaps actually looked and acted like the steadicam the pros use? Well, my easy steadicam design involves no cutting of metals and the hardest things are perhaps cutting pvc and cutting wood (which in fact we all love). I tried to build one with strings, but there was no apparent souce that was easy enough to understand with springs etc.

-no fabrication of metal needed
-no welding
-under 50 dollars (or so....i stopped counting)

With this design, its design is more similar to a steadicam in that it is not a "pogostick" that is vulnerable to moving due to a change in speed.

Click here for complete instructions.

Selling "Brick"s.

We played Rian Johnson's debut feature Brick at last year's Austin Film Festival. It was a big hit for us, and especially seemed to connect with the large teenager faction of the audience.

Well, now the film is getting a major rollout from Focus Features starting at the end of March. Their website and internet marketing has been all over the major film sites and blogs, and has really hit me as well done. Check out the official Brick site.

They do a great job in building the mystery for what is a really original and entertaining spin on the detective genre. Check it out when it comes near you, you'll never see high school the same way again.

New Column for Screenwriters

I thought it would be a great idea to answer some of the many questions I get everyday regarding screenwriting and our competition. Recently, AFF started a Dear Dawn column that will be running every couple of weeks. Here's the link for our very first one.

Dear Dawn

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Durwood's Video Pick of the Week

Durwood Wilkes is a professional bingo caller from Henshitt, Texas currently making his home base in Chicago. He recently celbrated his 25th year of criss-crossing the country spreading the gospel of bingory. The video pick of the week is taken from The Weekly Hopper, a newsletter for fans of Honky Tonk Bingo, a Sunday night tradition at the Pontiac Cafe' in Chicago. To subscribe to the Hopper, drop him a line at


All right, I meant to do this last week but I just got so far behind... But in honor of last week's Oscars, I did a little research and found some films that were robbed of Oscar gold and some that weren't even nominated- which seems like an abomi-goddam-nation. For instance, 1964. DR. STRANGELOVE loses to My Fair Lady. One of the greatest dark comedies of all time- wonderfully silly and disturbing at once- loses to some Pigmallion costume drama horsesh*t. You know if I would have been in attendance, I'd a thrown a tomato or two. TAXI DRIVER lost to Rocky, RAGING BULL lost to Ordinary People, APOCALYPSE NOW lost to Kramer vs. Kramer. But check out the films that weren't even nominated. A veritable fest of all time greats. I'll rattle off a few and holler at you next week. CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, DO THE RIGHT THING, 2001, HUD (C'mon now!), VERTIGO, COOL HAND LUKE (all right, now I'm pissed), THE THIRD MAN, NOTORIOUS (watch this movie if you haven't and tell me you love it so we can be friends), SEVEN SAMURAI. Enough already. It's like it's almost better if you don't win.

Friday, March 10, 2006

AFF Photo of the Week: Sandra Bullock

Crash cast member and sometime Austin resident Sandra Bullock attended the festival in 1998 to screen her writing and directing debut, the short film Making Sandwiches. The short starred Bullock as well as Matthew McConaughey and Eric Roberts.

Bullock will soon appear as writer Harper Lee in that other Truman Capote film, Infamous, which was shot in Austin last year.

(photo credit: Jack Plunkett/Austin Film Festival)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Nominated Guests at Sunday's Oscar party

AFF hosted an official Academy Awards party Sunday night at local restaurant Ranch 616. In attendance was Brokeback Mountain producer Michael Hausman (seen here reacting to Ang Lee's win for Best Director). Hausman has had an amazing career, working on such films as Amadeus, Mickey & Nicky, Man on the Moon, Gangs of New York, Silkwood and many more.

Also at the party was USA Quad Rugby head coach James Gumbert from the nominated doc, Murderball. James is also the head coach for the Texas Stampede which will host the National Championships here in Austin, Texas next month.

(photo credit: Jack Plunkett/Austin Film Festival)

Build a bluescreen for under $30?

The basement as movie studio. Nick Jushchyshyn shows us how to build a large removable, disposable bluescreen for under thirty dollars. According to the article on, here's all you need to get started:


One Blue plastic tablecloth roll (100' x 40") from party supply store. (About $13)
Nine 1x3 pine furring strips from home improvement store. (<$10)

Optional for mounting on basement wall:

One Can of Liquid-Nails from home improvement store. (About $4)


Stapler w/staples (Hardware store style normally used for stapling insulation)

He claims it works pretty well and has some photos to back up his case. Reminds me of Ray Harryhausen shooting stop-motion footage in his garage when he was a teenager.

Click here to read the full article.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Earn a Festival film pass - volunteer!

The Austin Film Festival (AFF) is always in need of great volunteers. We have a number of volunteer opportunities coming up in the next few weeks. If you would like to volunteer, now is a great time to start working towards a 2006 Conference Badge or Film Pass!

We're currently seeking volunteers to help in the office next week (March 13 - 17). We have several projects in all departments that could use great volunteers to work on. The sooner you begin volunteering the more opportunities you will have to earn your badge.

Why volunteer? Aside from helping out one of Austin's finest non- profits, volunteering for the Austin Film Festival provides volunteers with substantial rewards. You can earn a film pass or even a full Conference Badge. Email us for more information:

If you are available to help in the office next week, please call Sharmane at 512-478-4795, anytime between 10 AM and 6 PM.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Filmmakers: make sure your audience can find you

Jette Kernion of writes an open letter to indie filmmakers on her personal blog, Celluloid Eyes. In it she implores filmmakers to create web sites for their films with still images, cast and crew listings, and contact info.

"I'll be grateful for the easily accessible information, and you stand a much better chance of getting good publicity."

Read Jette's full letter here.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Brokeback Mountain in 30 Seconds with Bunnies

It was only a matter of time before the minds at Angry Alien got to this one. It's ripe for the riffing.

Watch Brokeback Mountain in 30 Seconds With Bunnies.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

AFF Photo of the Week: Jeff Daniels

Jeff Daniels attended the festival this last October for the Closing Night Screening of The Squid & The Whale. The film has gone on to be nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar (Noah Baumbach), but sadly, Jeff Daniels' great performance in the film went unrecognized by the Academy.

(photo credit: Jack Plunkett/Austin Film Festival)

AFF Doc Just a Little Bit Crazy now on DVD!

Will Dotter's documentary Just a Little Bit Crazy premiered at the Austin Film Festival in 2004 as part of our first Documentary competition. Shot in near by Taylor, Texas, the doc tells the story of the Taylor Jaycees’ annual National Rattlesnake Sacking Competition and Arts and Crafts Show, where the snakes are untamed with fangs full of venom. The film explores the small town Texas cultural phenomenon of snake sacking, where contestants attempt to get ten live rattlesnakes into their burlap sacks in the fastest time possible.

Soon after the AFF premiere, Will found DVD distribution for the film and as of Tuesday, Feb. 28th, can be found wherever quality DVDs are sold.

Check back soon for an interview with Will about the film.

Herzog is not afraid.

Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man has been one of my favorite films of last year ever since we screened it way back in the summer. No matter what the Oscar committee might think, the man makes amazing, compelling films.

And on top of that he may just be the coolest man alive. In recent weeks he has saved Joaquin Phoenix from a car crash as well as walking away completely unphased from a sniper attack.

So in honor of the great (crazy?) man, The Daily News has published some excerpts from his "diary". Pretty good stuff.

Can a film happen without a writer??

Sometimes the producers, director and stars of a film forget that without a script.. there would be no FILM.

AFF Podcast # 2 - Harold Ramis & Submitting Your Screenplay: Do's and Don'ts

In the second episode of the Austin Film Festival Podcast we introduce the "Starmeter" game, AFF screenplay competition director Dawn Wiercinski talks about the do's and don'ts of submitting your screenplay to a contest, and Harold Ramis wraps things up with some thoughts on storytelling.

Download the second AFF Podcast now!